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Old 08-22-2019, 04:14 PM
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The U.S. Senate should revamp the filibuster - and I have an idea


There are calls on the left to scrap the filibuster. The idea behind the filibuster is that when the country is closely divided, a strong minority can keep extreme positions from becoming law, which promotes bipartisan compromise. The filibuster doesn't seem to be engendering bipartisanship very much these days. The Democrats weakened the filibuster during the Obama administration to be able to get some cabinet and federal court (but not Supreme Court) seats filled. The Republicans in the Trump administration eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. People are suggesting that if the Democrats take the Senate, they should just scrap the filibuster altogether.

I think they should retain the filibuster but modify it. Senators should be allowed to filibuster but a cloture vote should be passable on a vote of more than half of Senators only if those Senators cumulatively represent more than 60% (or perhaps 2/3) of the population. For counting purposes, each Senator is credited with representing half the population of the state. If the state, for whatever reason, has only one Senator, they still get credit for only half the population. Thoughts?
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Old 08-22-2019, 04:23 PM
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Well, it fails what strikes me as the most important test politicians use on these sorts of things: "Does this change require me to give up power?"

It's also a bit of a knock on what the point of a senator is, isn't it?
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Old 08-22-2019, 04:42 PM
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Retain the filibuster but make it actually require talking -- the filibustering party needs to stay and talk, continuously, and if they stop at any time than the filibuster ends.
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Old 08-22-2019, 04:50 PM
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Retain the filibuster but make it actually require talking -- the filibustering party needs to stay and talk, continuously, and if they stop at any time than the filibuster ends.
So the debate about decisions that potentially affect all Americans comes down to how stamina and bladder capacity an individual Senator has?
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Old 08-22-2019, 05:07 PM
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The filibuster was a mistake. Literally a mistake.

Even if you like the idea of it, it's easy to think it's overused now.

Kill it with fire, I say.
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Old 08-22-2019, 06:47 PM
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The Republicans in the Trump administration eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees.
How did "the Republicans in the Trump administration" eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees?
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Old 08-22-2019, 09:11 PM
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How did "the Republicans in the Trump administration" eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees?
The Republican Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of one Donald J. T***p. If Donald says "Jump" McConnell says "how high?"
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Old 08-22-2019, 09:25 PM
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The Republican Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of one Donald J. T***p. If Donald says "Jump" McConnell says "how high?"
The Senate isn't part of anyone's administration, no matter whom the President is. You knew that, right?
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Old 08-22-2019, 09:39 PM
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The Senate isn't part of anyone's administration, no matter whom the President is. You knew that, right?
They don't act like it. You knew that, right?
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Old 08-22-2019, 09:53 PM
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They don't act like it. You knew that, right?
So when the Democratic House and Senate passed the ACA on a straight party line basis, were they acting as part of the Obama Administration?
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Old 08-22-2019, 10:06 PM
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So when the Democratic House and Senate passed the ACA on a straight party line basis, were they acting as part of the Obama Administration?
When the ACA was debated, there were public hearings, testimony from industry, consumer groups, insurance companies, etc. Republicans offered amendments, some of which were adopted. They were allowed to be part of the process. None of them voted for it because they took a vow on Inauguration Day 2009 that they would not cooperate with the administration on any issue. When the Republican tax cuts were passed, no Democrats were invited, no hearings were held, and Democrats were not allowed to even see the bill until it was time to vote on it. Do you think there's a difference?
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Old 08-23-2019, 02:31 AM
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I think they should retain the filibuster but modify it. Senators should be allowed to filibuster but a cloture vote should be passable on a vote of more than half of Senators only if those Senators cumulatively represent more than 60% (or perhaps 2/3) of the population. For counting purposes, each Senator is credited with representing half the population of the state. If the state, for whatever reason, has only one Senator, they still get credit for only half the population. Thoughts?
I don't like this idea. It's giving some Senators more power than others, based on what state they represent. I feel that every Senator should be equal.
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Old 08-23-2019, 04:46 AM
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Just from the standpoint of human nature, killing the filibuster would be much easier than modifying it. Once changing it gets on the table, the Senate would get bogged down in a debate between multiple proposals to modify the filibuster, and odds are none of them would ever come to fruition.

I, too, have my Perfect Pony Plan for limiting the use of the filibuster. But it won't happen, while killing the filibuster outright is at least a possibility. And if the choice is between keeping the filibuster for regular legislation, or killing it, it needs to go.
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Old 08-23-2019, 08:59 AM
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Give the sergeant-at-arms a taser, to be used as the Speaker or President-pro-tem directs.
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Old 08-23-2019, 10:01 AM
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Retain the filibuster but make it actually require talking -- the filibustering party needs to stay and talk, continuously, and if they stop at any time than the filibuster ends.
I'm not a fan of the filibuster. At all. So, how about making continuous tap-dancing the requirement? That way, it'll be tough to keep it up and be hilarious to boot!

Last edited by Fiddle Peghead; 08-23-2019 at 10:05 AM.
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Old 08-23-2019, 10:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Tired and Cranky View Post
I think they should retain the filibuster but modify it. Senators should be allowed to filibuster but a cloture vote should be passable on a vote of more than half of Senators only if those Senators cumulatively represent more than 60% (or perhaps 2/3) of the population. For counting purposes, each Senator is credited with representing half the population of the state. If the state, for whatever reason, has only one Senator, they still get credit for only half the population. Thoughts?
I am not sure what states would have only one Senator.

Nonetheless, here is a list of the most and least populous states in the US. It would appear that, under your proposal, the Senators from Georgia have more voting power than Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska, North and South Dakota, Delaware, Rhode Island, Montana, and Maine, put together. As mentioned, that sort of defeats the purpose of the Senate (as opposed to the House).
  1. You would need some legally defined date on which the population of each state was established. Maybe "as of the date each Senator was elected", or "as of the date of the last census" or something.
  2. As also mentioned, it will be difficult to persuade the distinguished members of the Senate from, say, Vermont that his or her vote counts for about a tenth of the vote of the distinguished members of the Senate from Texas or Florida. And
  3. The Constitution guarantees each State a republican (small r) form of government. Not a democratic (small d) one. This sounds a lot more like a small d than a small r.
The rules of the Senate are set (mostly) by the Senate. So, maybe, it would survive even a Constitutional challenge.

A Constitutional challenge does not seem to me to be the challenge it would need to worry about. More like the challenge of convincing Wyoming or Alaska that their votes should count a lot less. "What's in it for me/my state?" is a worthwhile question, and I don't see an obvious answer.

Regards,
Shodan
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Old 08-23-2019, 10:36 AM
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I've never liked the filibuster. It's either 1) an attempt to delay something that's inevitable (if so, then what purpose does the delaying do?) or 2) an attempt to game the system by preventing something from passing in the amount of time allotted, in which it's rather underhanded. It would be akin to a football defensive player deliberately sitting on top of the football to prevent the opposing offense from being able to snap the ball before the game clock expires.

If a Congressional minority wants to object, then object so legitimately. If you don't have the votes to stop the majority, then too bad, but a filibuster is a rather childish and petulant way of trying to obstruct.
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Old 08-23-2019, 11:35 AM
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I suspect that it may be unconstitutional to formulate the senate rules so that some Senators get move votes than others. But if it survived, then the next time the Republicans take back the Senate they will pass a rule that the filibuster only works if Senators voting for 60% of the land area of the United states votes for an end of cloture.
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Old 08-23-2019, 02:42 PM
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Do you think there's a difference?
Yes, I don't recall anyone, anywhere, claiming that Congress was acting as part of the Obama Administration.
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Old 08-23-2019, 05:04 PM
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So, maybe, it would survive even a Constitutional challenge.
I'd call it questionable. The Constitution says "each Senator shall have one vote" and I would interpret that to mean that all their votes should be equal in value.
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Old 08-24-2019, 01:40 AM
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If a Senator's vote is determined by the population of her state, how are you going to establish seniority? Cut the cards?
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Old 08-26-2019, 12:31 PM
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How did "the Republicans in the Trump administration" eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees?
I meant during but congratulations on a truly fruitful contribution to the substantive discussion. It's exactly what I've come to expect from today's Republicans.

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Originally Posted by RTFirefly View Post
Just from the standpoint of human nature, killing the filibuster would be much easier than modifying it. Once changing it gets on the table, the Senate would get bogged down in a debate between multiple proposals to modify the filibuster, and odds are none of them would ever come to fruition.

I, too, have my Perfect Pony Plan for limiting the use of the filibuster. But it won't happen, while killing the filibuster outright is at least a possibility. And if the choice is between keeping the filibuster for regular legislation, or killing it, it needs to go.
Assume it's a more perfect world. What would your better filibuster look like. I'm not saying my idea is the best, it's just one that I think is better than today's if we plan to keep the filibuster. I'm sincerely interested in what a filibuster should look like. Perhaps no filibuster is better than any alternative.

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I am not sure what states would have only one Senator.
Even Strom Thurmond turned out not to be immortal and Bob Packwood didn't finish out his term. Al Franken waited months to take his seat after a recount. Succession for Senators isn't instantaneous like succession for British monarchs. There can be vacancies.

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Nonetheless, here is a list of the most and least populous states in the US. It would appear that, under your proposal, the Senators from Georgia have more voting power than Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska, North and South Dakota, Delaware, Rhode Island, Montana, and Maine, put together. As mentioned, that sort of defeats the purpose of the Senate (as opposed to the House).
First, this applies only to cloture, not to votes, so the power of the Senate isn't shifted. There is nothing in the Constitution about the filibuster and there is nothing particularly constitutional about it. The purpose and operation of the Senate is fully preserved when voting on bills.

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  1. You would need some legally defined date on which the population of each state was established. Maybe "as of the date each Senator was elected", or "as of the date of the last census" or something.
  2. As also mentioned, it will be difficult to persuade the distinguished members of the Senate from, say, Vermont that his or her vote counts for about a tenth of the vote of the distinguished members of the Senate from Texas or Florida. And
  3. The Constitution guarantees each State a republican (small r) form of government. Not a democratic (small d) one. This sounds a lot more like a small d than a small r.
The rules of the Senate are set (mostly) by the Senate. So, maybe, it would survive even a Constitutional challenge.
Well, we use the census for all the other voting-related population questions but I suppose it would be crazy in this context to do anything other than count the number of Facebook members in each state.

Yes, it's a more democratic approach to one element of Senate operations. Implicit in my question is, whether in this small way, the Senate ought to be more democratic than republican. Direct election of Senators was one move to make the Senate more democratic. This is just another.

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A Constitutional challenge does not seem to me to be the challenge it would need to worry about. More like the challenge of convincing Wyoming or Alaska that their votes should count a lot less. "What's in it for me/my state?" is a worthwhile question, and I don't see an obvious answer.
The filibuster is just a Senate rule and it can be rewritten with a simple majority of votes in each new Senate.

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Originally Posted by Buck Godot View Post
I suspect that it may be unconstitutional to formulate the senate rules so that some Senators get move votes than others. But if it survived, then the next time the Republicans take back the Senate they will pass a rule that the filibuster only works if Senators voting for 60% of the land area of the United states votes for an end of cloture.
This is just a filibuster/cloture rule, not a voting rule. The filibuster already works by giving 41% of the Senate more power than the remaining 59%. This just tilts filibuster power differently. You are perhaps correct that a subsequent Senate could change the rule to base it on land area. I will point out that basing on population is pro-democratic and basing it on, let's say, the number of registered corporations in each state seems anti-democratic. Let the Senators who would use some other metric justify the legitimacy of their decision.

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I'd call it questionable. The Constitution says "each Senator shall have one vote" and I would interpret that to mean that all their votes should be equal in value.
I agree that their votes on legislation should be equal in value. But the filibuster is a procedural rule, not a voting rule. Right now, the only vote that matters is Mitch McConnell and whether he "votes" to bring a bill to the floor. Is that too unconstitutional in your view?

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If a Senator's vote is determined by the population of her state, how are you going to establish seniority? Cut the cards?
Seniority can be determined the same way it is now and I'm not sure why seniority is relevant to cloture in any event.
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Old 08-26-2019, 12:59 PM
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This solution is the easiest. Do what all of the other Rules of Order do and limit the number of times and for how long a member can debate.
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Old 08-26-2019, 02:40 PM
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... Thoughts?
It strikes me as a transparently self-serving proposal.
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Old 08-26-2019, 02:43 PM
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I think the filibuster is doomed in the near term, and (mostly) good riddance. Democracy works better when those elected actually have a path forward on what they promise (within the bounds of the Constitution... which doesn't require the filibuster).
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Old 08-27-2019, 11:00 AM
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A Constitutional challenge does not seem to me to be the challenge it would need to worry about. More like the challenge of convincing Wyoming or Alaska that their votes should count a lot less. "What's in it for me/my state?" is a worthwhile question, and I don't see an obvious answer.
The filibuster is just a Senate rule and it can be rewritten with a simple majority of votes in each new Senate.
WADR that doesn't address the question of why the smaller states would agree to this.

The Senate isn't supposed to be a democratic institution in the same way that the House is. That's part of the checks and balances. Which is why every state gets two Senators regardless of size. The House acts as a check on the Senate, and the Senate on the House. ISTM that you need a stronger reason than "it sounds like a good idea to me for you to give up some of your power even in a small way". YMMV, but the mileage of the smaller states probably won't.

Regards,
Shodan
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